labels: o&m, advertising/branding
Project Columbus to make O&M consumer-centricnews
India’s leading adv
23 April 2001

Initiated over 14 months ago, Project Columbus, as the exercise is called, has provided the agency much needed findings to implement this organisational restructuring, which is expected to take about a year to roll out nationally.

According to the agency’s highly successful managing director, Ranjan Kapur, the whole agency, consisting of 833 people and 250 clients, will be structured around consumer needs, instead of the existing structure around brands.

This move is a landmark in the advertising world which has traditionally been reshaping to create cross-functional and geography brand teams. This will be the first time in the history of global advertising that an agency is restructuring from the angle of serving a consumer’s needs, wants and desires first, instead of a brand’s end.

As part of this restructuring exercise the agency’s chief finance officer, S N Rane has been promoted to the post of chief operating officer. He will work closely with the agency’s hotshot creative director, Piyush Pandey, who has recently been promoted to group president. Together they will help in the implementation of Project Columbus and tie up the business and financials of all the clusters.

With his promotion, Mr Pandey will spend less time in the creative department and will, instead, get a creative governor to oversee the agency’s very high creative standards. Mr Pandey states that his mission now will be to drive passion and creativity across markets.

Under the new dispensation, O&M will have defined knowledge acquisition and application zones, which will shelter 14 need clusters. Of these need clusters around 12 are consumer-focussed and include health and hygiene, leisure and tourism and education. The zone structure will be topped by a board of 10 governors who will be specialists in their respective disciplines. These disciplines will include creative, strategy, rural, direct marketing, customer relationship management, new initiatives such as retail and entertainment and identity design.

Each of the 14 need clusters will be staffed by an art director, copywriter, strategists, public relation, direct marketing and customer relationship management specialists. Additionally, a member from Mindshare, the agency’s research outfit, may also be part of the team. Each cluster will be headed by a business director. Cross-functional and -geography teams will work together on the innumerable brands in their cluster and bring specialised focus to the table.

While each cluster will have a headquarter that will serve the entire national network, mini clusters of client servicing people will be created in each market so as not to diffuse the personalised element.

Led by IIM alumnus, Vivek Sharma and planned and driven by a seven-member task force drawn from the brightest staffers across disciplines, the project was based on extensive interviews with members of the industry to find out what they expected from their ad agencies in the future. The new structure was based on the overwhelming feedback that clients in today’s competitive world wanted two-way interactivity from their ad agencies and not merely the traditional support as suppliers of communication and media inputs.

With the nature of the business changing from managing brands to managing consumer needs, clients want much more value from their agencies and a greater understanding of their consumers.

The goal of the new structure will be to collect ‘best of practice’ inputs in various disciplines from around the world which will be fed to both the knowledge arms. This ensures a vertical and horizontal sharing of knowledge at the same time.

It is understood that if the new structure works, it will be replicated across all O&M agencies globally.


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Project Columbus to make O&M consumer-centric